Research: Investigating Mothers’ Decisions to Give Their 2-to-3-Year-Old Child a Nutritionally Balanced Diet
Goals of study:
The goal of “Investigating Mothers’ Decisions to Give Their 2-to-3-Year-Old Child a Nutritionally Balanced Diet” was to understand what factors may be affecting how mothers make nutritional choices for their children. The study wanted to use the Theory of Planned Behavior as a base theory to find these results.
In the introduction section the authors briefly describe the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and their intention to use this framework as the basis for determining these factors. The authors also went on to introduce two additional concepts that may affect decision making: (1) “Parental Role Construction” (PRC), which describes how parent’s perception of societal parenting expectations affect their behaviors; and (2) “Group Norms”, which describe how social groups (e.g., other mothers in this case) affect decision making. Both were suggested as being recognized extensions to the TPB.
The TPB introduces several constructs of the theory such as attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioral control, intention and behavior. Figure 1.0 shown below lists the main elements of this theory.
By Robert Orzanna – Own Work, CC BY-SA
The authors designed a study that tested (1) if elements of TPB (e.g., attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavior control (PBC)) can be used to predict the likelihood of mothers to provide healthy foods and limit discretionary food choices to their children, and (2) if extensions to TBC (e.g., parental role construction and group norm) can be used to predict the likelihood of mothers to provide healthy options to their children.
The experiment was based on (1) identify a set of mothers with a 2-3 year old child, (2) asking them a set of questions designed to measure important main constructs of the TPB (see figure 1.0) as well as PRC and group norm, and then (3) compare answers to TPC components and extensions to determine the most relevant components impacting mothers’ “healthy eating” decisions for their children.
Participants were identified “face to face via convenience sampling.” Essentially they found places likely to have mothers with children 2 to 3-years old and asked them to participate. A small gift was offered to encourage participation. Data collection was self-reported for this study. The study consisted of two phases- (1) a written survey and (2) a follow up telephone interview. The first phase was a survey with the option of completing it either in person or over the internet. The first phase had 197 participants. In the second phase, 161 of the original 197 participants answered the telephone for a week follow up survey. For this phase, healthy eating and discretionary food choice behaviors were the primary focus.
Various statistical methods were employed, including surveys to record the data for the study. Tools used included 7 point Likert Scales and the Cronbach alpha. Researchers in this study asked participants if they agreed or disagreed with a variety of statements. The response to these statements were measured using the 7-point Likert scale. The Cronbach alpha was then used to find the relation for specific constructs to healthy eating and discretionary food behaviors.
Mothers did a moderate job at making sure that children consumed healthy options and limited their discretionary intake. Several statistics were referenced to support this. (Note- The reference to Table 1 did not contain statistical results but instead contained demographic details of study participants!)
The study also found that intentions and perceived behavioral control had a strong correlation with behaviors of healthy eating and discretionary food choices. Constructs of TPB such as attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavior control were found to predict these intentions. Although not a construct of TPB, parental role construction also had a correlation with intentions that influence behavior.
Increased programs that focus on improving the mindset of mothers would promote more healthy eating and limited discretionary food behaviors for their children. Researchers may benefit from measuring parental role construction in addition to constructs in the TPB since there are strong relations with these constructs and behavior.
Why this work is relevant:
The results of this study can help professionals design training and recommend programs directed at mothers engage in healthy food eating and limiting discretionary food choices for their children. This will lead to children learning better life-long eating habits.
The participants seem skewed towards certain social-economic groupings- e.g., married women over single, and stay at home parents over full time working mothers. This could potentially represent biased findings. Therefore, one should consider expanding the sample out and rerunning the experiment to determine if the same results hold.
6 Notable Terms
The article, “Parental physical activity: the role of social support” was referenced because this article mentioned how important both parental role construction and group norms are for affecting the behavior of parents. Neither factor is in the base theory (TPB) used to evaluate participants in the article, “Investigating Mothers’ Decisions to Give Their 2- to 3-Year Old Child a Nutritionally Balanced Diet.” The idea of these additional factors were partially derived from this article referenced.
The article, “Investigating mother’s decisions about their child’s sun-protective behavior using an extended theory of planned behavior” was referenced because it used the TPB as a base theory as well. It also supports evaluating parent role construction in addition to the TPB constructs. The article proposes a strong relation of parent role construction and behavior.
Hamilton K, White KM. Parental physical activity: the role of social support. Am J Health Behav.2010;34: 573-584.
Spinks T, Hamilton K. Investigating Mothers’ Decisions to Give Their 2- to 3-Year- Old Child a Nutritionally Balanced Diet. J Nutr Educ Behav.2016;48:250-257.
Thomson CE, White KM, Hamilton K. Investigating mothers’ decisions about their child’s sun-protective behaviour using an extended theory of planned behaviour. J Health Psychol. 2012;17: 1001-1010.
Ava is a Registered Dietitian with a BS in Nutritional Science from Penn State University. She completed her postgraduate dietetic internship at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center where she had a critical care concentration. She started her RD career working at a level one trauma center providing Medical Nutrition Therapy to patients in the Greater New York City area. She now resides in South Florida as her hospital's full time outpatient dietitian, overseeing outpatient nutrition for cardiometabolic, bariatric, and hospital medical nutrition therapy.